Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Congress: Read the bills!

Over the past several months, congressional "leaders" have rammed through extremely expensive and extremely bad legislation with inadequate debate and study. These bills include the absolutely evil "stimulus" and "health-care" bills and the truly horrendous proposed "cap-and-trade" tax bill.

Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. For Members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility should mean reading and understanding each word of every bill before they vote.But Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead,
• Congress carelessly passes mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote!
• Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.
• Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.
• Congress combines unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called “log-rolling.”)
• Votes are held with little debate or public notice.
• Once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, congressmen pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?” they say.

This egregious lack of responsibility must end immediately! Congress has been out of control and out of touch for decades. The so-called "stimulus" bills are yet more examples of legislative constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the pen. The fact that the president and Congressional "leaders" are eager to pass 1,000-plus-page bills without giving congressmen or constituents a chance to read it proves that they only have evil intentions that would never pass muster if conducted in the open. How can the majority of congressmen (especially their "leaders") possibly sleep at night?

Much of the legislation that comes out of Congress contains poorly-worded verbiage and virtually all legislation contains earmarks and/or laws that should never see the light of day. Nevertheless, Congress persists in rushing to pass these poorly-written bills without reading them. The seemingly perpetual "stimulus" bills are an excellent example.

If Congress passes bills with secret provisions inserted at the last minute (ie approval for the infamous AIG bonuses) or bills with badly-written sections or bills which exceed Constitutional limits, each congressman voting for the bill is just as guilty as the person(s) who snuck it in. Every congressman who votes for such legislation is morally responsible for the unintended consequences of the poorly-worded laws they pass.

Every congressman must cosponsor and fight for immediate enactment of the Read the Bills Act. Failure to do so clearly indicates a congressman's complete satisfaction with the profoundly corrupt way things are done in Washington.

If the "Read the Bills Act" (RTBA) were in force, Congress would craft much better bills. Some members of Congress claim that RTBA is impractical, even though it could have prevented the destructive aspects of horrible bills such as the scam-stimulus bills, while still allowing Congress to pass as much as 8,000 pages of legislation each year -- far more than we really need.

Note: Unfortunately, because the "Read the Bills Act" doesn't require all congressman be present for the reading and can't make anyone actually listen while a bill is being read, I don't think it'd do much good even if Congress passed a "Read the Bills Act". I propose the "Read the Bills Act" be amended to require each congressmen take a comprehensive test on the content and effects (including any and all unrelated amendments) of a bill. The test must include questions on the constitutionality of each element of the proposed bill. No congressman who scores lower than 90% would be eligible to vote on that bill. Any congressman who scores below 90% for 5 consecutive bills would be ineligible to vote for the remainder of his term in office. This testing would force congressmen to pay attention to his job. (I also suggest similar testing for voters. We have the congress and president we have because at least two-thirds of the voters -- from both major parties -- are idiots.)

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